Although Florida has statutes dealing with grandparent guardianship and grandparent visitation, those statutes have been declared to be unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court. Consequently, many grandparents in Florida are often discouraged from attempting to obtain full-time care of their grandchildren, even when their grandchildren are suffering under dire circumstances. However, experienced attorneys from Jupiter to Wellington and throughout Palm Beach County know that there are - under limited circumstances - grandparents in Florida who can obtain guardianship and/or timesharing/visitation with their grandchildren.
The court is ultimately tasked with determining an arrangement that is in the best interest of the children, while also taking into consideration the rights of a parent to raise their children. With a case-by-case determination, it is important to understand the necessary steps to take for your particular situation as well as all the factors that go into the judge’s decision.
Situation #1: The parents are deceased or unavailable because of incarceration or hospitalization.
In this situation, the grandparents need only show that they are fit to care for the child in order to qualify as the child's caretakers.
Situation #2: The children are taken away from the parents.
When children are removed from a home by social services or law enforcement, the law requires that adult relatives of the children be contacted and be considered to have temporary custody and given an opportunity to participate in care decisions made for the children. In this situation, grandparents may be given the chance to care for the children, either through or independent of the foster care system.
Situation #3: Suing for custody.
Grandparents who have reason to believe that their grandchildren should be removed from the care of their parents and wish to obtain guardianship through the court system must establish certain criteria including:
That they have standing (they have the right to seek court action in the first place). This may be proven if:
- The grandparents have been responsible for the care of the grandchildren for an extended time, particularly if parents fail to remain involved with their children or provide financial support for them.
- They can establish abuse or that the parent is unfit. They must show that some behavior of the parent(s), including violence, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, mental or physical inability to care for the child, or sexual conduct that directly impacts the child, present a physical or psychological danger or threat to the child's well being.
That grandparent custody is in the best interest of the child. Criteria the court uses includes:
- the grandparent's willingness to allow the child continued contact with parents
- the emotional relationship between the child and grandparents
- the ability of the grandparents to care for the child's daily needs
- the effect of change on the child
- the permanency and stability of the proposed home
- the moral fitness of the grandparents
- their mental and physical health
- the child's school and other records
- the reasonable preference of the child
- any history of child abuse or violence
With a child’s future at risk, it is important that grandparents engage a lawyer with extensive expertise in the area of custody before moving forward with legal action. We at The Law Firm of Charles D. Jamieson, P.A. are experienced in consulting and representing grandparents in obtaining timesharing and/or custody of their grandchildren. Even though Florida provides limited circumstances, creative litigation can oftentimes provide grandchildren their best opportunity for growing up in a safe, nurturing environment – in the homes of their grandparents. Please contact us for a consultation at our office or over the telephone.
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